The Ultimate Battle is the full story of the last great clash of World War II as it has never before been told.
With the same “grunt's-eye-view” narrative style that distinguished his Brotherhood of Heroes (on the Battle of Peleliu), Bill Sloan presents a gripping and uniquely personal saga of heroism and sacrifice in which at least 115,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen from both sides were killed, as were nearly 150,000 civilians caught in the crossfire or encouraged to commit suicide by Japanese troops.
It is a story set against a panorama of more than 1,500 American ships, nearly two thousand Japanese kamikazes sworn to sink those ships, and two huge armies locked in a no-quarter struggle to the death—the 541,000 GIs and Marines of the U.S. Tenth Army, and Japan's 110,000-man 32nd Army. Woven into the broader narrative, in Band of Brothers style, are the personal stories of men who endured this epic battle and were interviewed by the author. In many cases, their experiences are told here in print for the first time.
A few days after Japanese defenders surprised American assault troops by allowing them to land virtually unopposed on April 1, 1945, scouts of the 96th Division stumbled onto the outerworks of formidable Japanese defenses near Kakazu Ridge, where fierce fighting erupted. It would continue without respite for nearly three months as American forces used every weapon and strategy at their disposal to break through three cunningly designed Japanese lines of defense, each anchored by commanding high ground, intricate underground installations, and massed artillery. When one line was about to be breached, the Japanese would slip away to the next one, forcing the Americans to repeat the same exhausting and deadly "corkscrew and blowtorch" assaults all over again.
Much of the action in The Ultimate Battle unfolds among men pinned down under relentless fire on disputed hillsides, in the ruins of shell-blasted villages, and inside stricken tanks and armored cars. Sloan also takes readers aboard flaming ships and into the cockpits of night-fighter aircraft to capture the horror and heroism of men and vessels besieged by kamikazes.
When the battle was over, most of the GIs, Marines, and sailors who survived it were too worn out to celebrate. More than 49,000 of their comrades had been killed or wounded, and they knew that the even more brutal invasion of Japan's home islands loomed just ahead. But as Sloan makes clear, the slaughter at Okinawa helped to convince President Truman to use the atomic bomb against Japanese cities in the hope of shortening the war and averting a far more horrific loss of life.
The Ultimate Battle is a searing and unforgettable recreation of the Okinawa campaign as it was experienced by men who were there. It is filled with fresh insights that only those men can provide.
"Bill Sloan has a real feel for the human side of this horrific drama. He suggests there can never be such a battle again, and by the time you've finished reading, you will pray he's right. A powerful, moving book." -- Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-1945
"Bill Sloan's The Ultimate Battle is the Okinawa book I've been waiting for. You actually feel like you're with the GIs and Marines as they storm Japanese bastions, and on American ships as the kamikaze attacks are unleashed. A very harrowing, well written World War II classic." -- Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge and The Boys of Pointe du Hoc
"Memory of an epic battle that altered history has begun to fade. Yet, the fighting for Okinawa was so ferocious that it influenced America's decision to use the atomic bomb. If Japan would fight so furiously for an island outpost, what would an invasion of the mainland cost? Bill Sloan answers that question in this close-up, you-are-there account of the Pacific war's ultimate struggle. Battle reportage at its finest." -- Joseph E. Persico, author of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day 1918
"Gripping. Authoritative. Masterfully told. I cannot praise this book highly enough." -- Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter
"The Ultimate Battle is a compelling, immensely evocative story of one of the largest, most fiercely fought battles in American history. Here is that gigantic struggle, the defining battle of the Pacific War, seen primarily through the experiences of the sailors, soldiers, and airmen who suffered through it. This is a terrific work." -- Donald L. Miller, author of Masters of the Air and D-Days in the Pacific
"Monumental.... The Ultimate Battle is the ultimate book about heroism, death, and sacrifice.... A definite 'must-read.'" -- WWII History
"Strikingly graphic and brutally honest, Sloan's picture of the struggle for Okinawa comes as close as any book has to conveying the campaign's horrors." -- Eric Ethier, America in WWII magazine
"Remarkable and stirring...Outstanding...Highly valuable and significant." -- Glen Sper, The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger